SPEAKEASY MAGICK at The McKittrick: A Review
Before the pandemic on vacation in Vegas, I paid a ludicrous sum to see one of those popular cable television illusionists on the strip. Slightly satiated by the ridiculous two hours I’d wasted at the Luxor, I had no clue what I was walking into all these years later at the McKittrick Hotel. However, the fact that it was at the McKittrick, which is an absolutely gorgeous venue in the Meatpacking District with multiple spaces and a well-known rooftop bar, my fiancé and I nonetheless forged ahead blind to give it a shot.
Feeling slightly underdressed, once I took off my layers of sweaters, we found ourselves in awe at the space. Instead of a password in a shady alley which normally would gain access to a speakeasy, our tickets sufficed, as we followed the orange lights taking us into the lower Manderley Bar, now had been transformed into a Gothic-esque cabaret. The devil was in the details when the production team designed this room and it was a flat-out time machine to another era.
Overwhelming, yet cozy once you take a seat, I noticed the very light touch of fog-machine smoke near the lights, giving the set a smoky, old-timey feel. The bar was an excellent indicator of the quality, and revealed what was to come with both the libations and performances. As a former mixologist, their beverage program was not only varied, but all top-shelf, with champagne service available for certain tables.
The lights dimmed, the spotlight focused, and the sly grumblings of New York City comedy legend, Todd Robbins, filled the air. An O.G. with decades of Coney Island comedy circuit experience, Mr. Robbins is delightfully rousing. His gusto is undeniable as he barked out classic jokes, conquering the stage in his tuxedo as if he had just walked out of a prohibition-era black and white gangster film. You are locked-in as soon as he graces the stage.
In a whirlwind of movement with a jazzy live piano accompaniment in the background, the show began with a literal bang. At the table there was a single empty chair, but I was staring at the empty stage, awaiting a traditional start. When they describe the show as immersive, they mean it.
The first magician, the fiery Patrick Davis, was physically sitting two feet away from us performing right at the table. A transplant from Kentucky, the self-taught wunderkind was given his first magic set at the age of five and simply never put it down. Wowing with a teapot trick and pyrotechnics (I will restrain from detailing), Patrick was a great opener as he is genuinely a nice guy who is fun to be around.
Patrick’s, like his favorite magician from the 1970’s Doug Henning, is unapologetically himself. After the show, Patrick wound up closing the evening with me at a tucked away table, graciously answering my questions, albeit after a few of the delicious cocktails. Growing up in Kentucky, he doesn’t have that edginess of a city guy as he explains his techniques and inspiration saying “magic shouldn’t come from a box,” yet politely, in the same breath, complimenting the uniqueness to each of the other performers.
Applauding as the host told raunchy jokes, the whole room jumped once more as a massive game of music chairs began, and our next performer was seated. Mark Calabrese is a force of nature, plain and simple. Bashing into the chair, he waved his hand in front of his face saying “God, the fucking fire guy!” I liked him immediately.
After the show, he too would later sit down with me in private for a few words. With a rough Jersey accent, his humor was brilliant, brash and dry; pure East Coast. Mark looks like a rock and roll cage fighter with a Tom Hardy a la The Revenant demeanor, flashing superb card skills. In full character, a guest at our table almost handed him a wad of money and with perfect braggadocio, Calabrese utters “were you seriously going to just give all your cash to a street magician with face tattoos?”
Sitting down with Mark Calabrese, know that he is magnetic even at his snarkiest. When I asked him how he got into magic he seemed bored by the question and bluntly told me that he was from a strict military family. Deciding early that he wasn’t going to follow their lead, he got his first magic set by seven. With a little gentle prying, he revealed that he didn’t have many friends growing up, and magic is his life. A mind reader, lecturer, consultant, and disciple of the dark arts, it was an absolute pleasure to watch him work. Everything he quipped was as show-stopping as Joe Pesci in a Scorsese flick.
Next up was the immensely talented and stoic Matthew Holtzclaw who has an essence of Rasputin to him as he toyed with a prop cigarette. He is an intimate sleight-of-hand performer, echoing possessed "Smoking Man" from the X Files energy. It’s complicated writing about the actual illusions he performed, as they were all so great that not a single surprise should be spoiled. Just go see it. Matthew was probably the most mysterious act, leaving us all enlightened and slightly dusty with loose tobacco.
The next was mentalist Andy Gershenzon, otherwise known as Brooklyn Wizard. With a calming aura, I couldn’t help but wish I’d run into him at a dive bar and played a few games of pool. His sleight of hand was practically dizzying as we jumped face first into a routine that quickly reveals why he is the most in-demand private party magician in Brooklyn. By the end of his act, I couldn’t help but joke with my fiancé...where was this guy when I accidentally broke a few things in my mother’s living room as a teen? He would have been a lifesaver.
Last and certainly not least was Prakash Puru, a pristinely dressed 007 villain-looking gentleman from Singapore. An intense and dapper clairvoyant, being in his presence was like waiting to open up to a therapist. Once he got started, I forgot I was even at a theatre in Manhattan. He dragged us completely into his realm of reality.
The physicality of his act was baffling and my jaw was on the floor the entire time. Friends and family did not believe my description of the illusions. For just a moment, I really believed in magic and threw my adherence to logic and science out the window, loving every second. Hypnotizing and exuding suaveness, Prakash is certainly one of the best in the industry and knows it.
Jokingly checking my pockets with the rest of the table as the infallible Todd Robbins wrapped up the show and teased us with welcomed raunchiness, my fiancé and I agreed that the show was one of the best we’ve been to. No exaggeration, it is fantastically in-your-face immersive and I can genuinely say I now have a deep love for both magic and vaudeville. Between the boredom of the pandemic and with the sun going down at 5PM, it was an absolute honor to be blown away by such a unique and wonderful production. Bravo!
Speakeasy Magick is perfect for groups or a date night if you truly want to impress your significant other. My fiancé and I will be talking about this experience at dinner parties and gatherings for decades to come with great disbelief. The magicians who performed for us are on a rotation, so they vary and may not be the same. But, the quality of the casting, and after literally having the time of my life, I’m positive it will always be a memorable experience.
You can book a table for the interactive performance at https://mckittrickhotel.com/manderley-bar/magick/ and there is also a gorgeous rooftop bar for an after show drink at the Gallow Green https://mckittrickhotel.com/gallow-green/. The show is ongoing, but even on a Thursday night it was packed to the brim, so get your reservations set early. ***Vaccination Required and 21+ with Proof***
The McKittrick Hotel: https://mckittrickhotel.com/
***All have contact information for private shows***